Are you looking for the best things to do in Playa del Carmen? Look no further! Over the last 7 years, we have tried and reviewed all of the region’s activities and compiled a list of only the best ones. The best part is that most of them are free!
You can trust that we have included only the best of Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya on this list.
1. Walk Along The Famous 5th Avenue (Free – Kid-Friendly)
The pedestrian-only 5-mile long street called 5th Avenue is a must-visit when in Playa del Carmen as it runs through the city’s downtown area and caters to all your tourist needs. Best of all, it’s free to stroll along this iconic street.
Although is generally inexpensive compared to the US or UK, the prices for restaurants and bars on 5th Avenue in PDC are slightly higher. However, 5th Avenue is a great place to shop for souvenirs. If you’re on a budget, check out the streets a block or two away from the beach for more affordable dining and drinking options.
Visiting 5th Avenue is a common tourist activity in Playa. If you didn’t do it, can you really say you visited the city?
2. Unwind at one of the best beaches (Free – Kid-Friendly)
If you plan to visit this area, you definitely deserve some rest and relaxation. And I know you’ll want to check out the best beaches around here. In my opinion, Playacar in Playa del Carmen is the top beach. Despite being very close to downtown, it has its own unique charm and is simply stunning. You can easily walk to phase 1 by exiting 5th Avenue at the south end and turning left. It should take about 10 minutes to reach your destination.
3. Visit a Cenote and go Diving or Snorkeling (~$20 – Kid-Friendly)
Hundreds of natural sinkholes filled with beautiful crystal clear freshwater were created in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico due to a meteorite that hit the area millions of years ago. There are many cenotes to choose from, but my personal recommendation for a great cenote that is suitable for both adults and kids is Cenote Azul. It is conveniently only a 15-minute taxi ride away from downtown and costs just 180 pesos ($9 USD) to enter.
You can rent lifejackets and snorkeling gear for a small fee. The cenote has restrooms and a snack hut available. Additionally, there are shallow areas for children and deeper areas for adults who want to dive in.
It is suggested to visit during the weekdays (Monday to Friday) as the place can get busy on weekends. Keep in mind that the most beautiful and breathtaking cenotes are privately owned and can only be accessed through private tours like the ones offered in Tulum. To get a comprehensive list of the best cenotes in the area, you can check out our ultimate guide to the majestic cenotes in Playa del Carmen.
During the rainy season that lasts from July to October, mosquitos can be very abundant around the lush jungle surrounding the cenotes, so remember to bring insect repellent with you. Read theBest Time to Visit Playa Guide.
4. See Ancient Mayan Ruins ($25 -80, Kid-friendly)
It is believed that the ancient civilization was more advanced than our current society. Trust me, visiting the ruins will leave you amazed. If you’re on a tight budget, you can visit them yourself, but there are also knowledgeable archaeologists who can guide you and offer additional activities. It’s definitely worth it, because even with prior research, they shared mind-blowing and obscure facts during the tour.
Our Favorite Mayan ruins to visit from Playa del Carmen include:
If you are looking for an amazing snorkeling experience in the Caribe, I can help you out! Xel-Ha and Xcaret are both popular options, but it might be tough to decide which one to choose if it’s your first time. Both locations offer beautiful wildlife and clear waters for you to enjoy.
In my opinion, Xel-Ha is the best Water Park because it is all-inclusive. This means that all activities, food, and drinks (including alcoholic) are included. On the other hand, Xcaret has a lot happening at once and it may take at least 3 days to see everything. It has a more theatrical vibe. Ultimately, it depends on your preferences. You can find out more about the differences between Xel-Ha and Xcaret here.
6. Go Out at Night
Mexico‘s Cancun is renowned as the primary party destination, but Playa del Carmen is also a popular spot. Visitors can enjoy dancing at a number of nightclubs like the well-known Coco Bongo Club, which offers circus shows, theaters, music, and more, as well as Mandala, La Vaquita, or Club 69, which caters to a gay crowd.
For a refreshing drink, Trujillos Cantina de Selva comes highly recommended with its beautiful restaurant ambiance, especially at night, tropic garden setting, delicious cocktails, and interesting menu that includes vegan options.
If you’re searching for a beach bar in the area, there are a few options you can consider. The Fusion Beach Bar & Cuisine has a chill vibe with reggae tunes and they serve their own house beer. Alternatively, you could check out Zenzi which has live salsa music beginning at 7.30 pm. If you prefer, you could take a stroll and pick a spot for yourself as most of the bars are on Quinta Avenida, 10th or 12th street. Find out more in Playa del Carmen’s Nightlife Guide.
7. Visit Isla Mujeres or Cozumel ($30-70, Kid-Friendly)
The ferry to Isla Mujeres departs from Puerto Juarez in Cancun, while the ferry to Cozumel departs from the southern end of 5th Avenue in downtown Playa, and it’s very easy to locate.
To purchase tickets in advance, visit Ultramar’s website. Both Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are wonderful destinations, but Cozumel is better suited for those interested in snorkeling and observing local wildlife, while Isla Mujeres offers a bustling shopping town and lovely beaches.
My advice for taking a ferry is to choose Ultramar over Winjet. Ultramar provides a more pleasant experience due to its modern, clean, and comfortable boats.
8. Swim with Sea Turtles ($30 – $60, Kid-friendly)
I had a mesmerizing experience swimming with sea turtles and exploring the ocean. This day will be forever etched in my memory. To witness these stunning creatures, you can go snorkeling in areas where they are frequently spotted, such as:
Akumal ( means ‘place of the turtles’)
For the best chance of seeing the mystical creatures, I recommend going on a tour. Tour guides are knowledgeable about their whereabouts and sightings are often likely. However, please keep in mind that this is nature and not an aquarium, so sightings are never guaranteed.
9. Enjoy the Food
It would be a shame to just eat at your hotel when you visit Mexico because Playa del Carmen has a lot of delicious and affordable food. You can find a variety of options, including seafood, steak, lobster, tacos and more – Playa del Carmen Restaurant Guide.
10. Go Paragliding ($70, Kid-friendly)
This activity is very popular in Playa del Carmen because it’s very fun. If you are on the main beach in downtown Playa, you will definitely see someone being dragged along the ocean by a boat. Being up there provides unbeatable views!
If you are looking for a very exciting activity in Mexico that’s not as extreme as skydiving or jumping from a plane, parasailing might be perfect for you. It’s a relaxing experience once you’re up in the air, and they can even lower you down to dip your toes in the water before raising you up again.
11. Walk Around Parque Fundadores (Free, Kid-Friendly)
Do you know the name of the big statue in Playa del Carmen? It’s called Portal Maya and is located in Parque Fundadores. This 50 ft. high sculpture by artist Arturo Taravez from Guanajuato, Mexico shows men and women swirling in water and wind. It celebrates the Mayan calendar and the date December 21st, 2012. It’s definitely worth checking out while you’re in PDC. Additionally, the park has a play area for kids and cute shops where you can buy drinks and snacks.
I hope you get to witness the Papantla dancers’ ritual during your visit. The ritual consists of five men hanging from a pole on a rope at a height and is performed throughout the day. It is believed that the ritual was created to appeal to the gods to end a severe drought. This ritual is mainly related to the Papantla, Veracruz area of Mexico. To save some money, consider bringing your own snacks and drinks. You can enjoy the sights without paying any fee.
If you visit Playa del Carmen, be sure to try swimming with whale sharks. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience! These creatures are the world’s largest fish and only eat plankton and microorganisms, so there’s nothing to fear from their intimidating name. Despite their size, they’re not at all like Jaws. You can observe their impressive length, which can reach up to 20 meters, from May to September.
As mentioned in my author bio, you can find me either relaxing in a rooftop pool or salsa dancing by the shore. Despite being English and having no prior experience with salsa dancing when I first came to Playa, I eventually learned with the help of locals. My rhythm was initially stiff, but I improved over time. Don’t hesitate to try it out yourself, because you might regret not trying it later in life. Zenzi is a great place to start, as there are many salsa dancing opportunities in Playa.
I like Zenzi because it is located by the sea. Although participating is free, it is recommended that you order some food or drinks during your visit.
Playa del Carmen is a popular choice for scuba divers as it offers many exciting cenotes and good reefs nearby. The city itself is also comfortable to live in. To fulfill your wish of scuba diving in Playa del Carmen, you can find numerous diving schools and shops in the town to get PADI certified. It’s a great way to tick this experience off your bucket list.
Some great spots for scuba diving near Playa del Carmen are Pared Verde Ledge and Tortugas. If you go further down near Akumal, you can also check out Gorgonians. Additionally, off the coast of Cozumel, Palancar Reef and Santa Rosa Wall are also great sites for scuba diving.
15. Take yourself on a taco tour ($15, Kid-friendly)
If you’re in Mexico, you must try the delicious food here. One of the highly praised dishes is the variety of tacos available. In Playa del Carmen, there are many options, and to help you out, I’ve created a comprehensive taco guide for you. Don’t underestimate the small food trucks selling tacos by the road. They may look small, but they serve some of the tastiest tacos in town.
16. Spend a day at a beach club
If you’re looking to enjoy the beach in comfort, there are several beach clubs in Playa del Carmen to choose from. Two popular options are Las Hijas Beach Club and Lido Beach Club. Las Hijas Beach Club offers amenities such as free chair and umbrella rentals, WiFi and good music (with occasional DJ sets). The top floor has a nice view and a pool, making it a great spot to watch the sunset. Lido Beach Club is a classic and centrally located. The service is excellent, the food is very good (including vegetarian options) and the atmosphere is great. It’s recommended to arrive early as it can get crowded.
There are several beach clubs in Playa del Carmen like Kool Beach Club, Mamita’s Beach Club, Martina’s Beach Club, and Coralina Daylight Club, among others. You can choose based on your preferences and budget. However, it’s important to ask for the price beforehand and if the entrance fee can be used as credit at the restaurant/bar since it can increase rapidly.
17. Sailing and fishing boat tours ($100 – $500, Kid-Friendly)
Playa del Carmen offers a variety of sailing, fishing and catamaran tours due to its proximity to the ocean. Embarking on these tours with professional guides can be an exciting adventure. The fat-cat tour has options for both families and adults, but be cautious of the rum punch as it can be deceptively strong.
18. Enjoy the View from a Rooftop Pool
If you’re tired of dealing with sand, waves, and seaweed at the beach, a rooftop pool might be just what you need. You’ll still get great views of the beach, but in a calm and clean setting where you can relax and enjoy a cocktail.
19. Instagram the Beautiful Murals
As you stroll down Quinta Avenida in Playa del Carmen, you’ll find that the city center is filled with vibrant and colorful street art on the building facades. Mexican and international artists have been coming to the city for years, and the Dreamers Art Festival, which began in 2015, has only increased their presence.
I recommend checking out my list of the best street art in Playa del Carmen if you’re interested in creating your own walking tour. Keep in mind that since street art is ephemeral, some of it may have been altered. It’s one of my preferred activities in Playa del Carmen, and it’s completely free!
20. Rent a jet ski ($70 for 30 minutes)
For all those who love excitement, driving a jet ski at high speeds is perfect for you! However, if you are prone to seasickness, please be cautious as the waves can become choppy, especially when speeding across them.
21. Go Paddleboarding ($20 per hour)
The Aloha Paddle Club and Fusion Beach Bar Cuisine have collaborated to offer an amazing experience of beach and water sports. You can expect a relaxing and genuine atmosphere, typical of Playa-style beach and surf. You’ll be able to enjoy delicious food and drinks, as well as massages, shisha, and daily live music and fire shows. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in the rapidly increasing water sport of Stand up Paddleboarding.
22. Visit the Neighboring Town Tulum
If you’re in the Riviera Maya, you shouldn’t miss Tulum. It’s a beautiful destination with beachfront ruins, long white sand beaches, cenotes, and a bohemian atmosphere. The best part is that it’s only an hour away from Playa del Carmen, so you can visit all the top spots in a day trip.
To make the most of your time, start by visiting the Tulum archaeological site, then check out a nearby cenote for a refreshing swim. Later in the day, stroll along the Tulum Beach Strip, and relax on beaches like Playa Paraiso or Las Palmas.
23. Visiting a Museum
You can visit the Museum of Wonders 3D with friends, family, or as a couple. The museum is filled with interactive artworks created by artist Kurt Wenner, who uses perspective to create optical illusions. You can take fun pictures while exploring the museum’s floors and walls. The visit starts with a projection that explains the optical illusion tricks used in the artworks.
Additionally, the Frida Kahlo Museum is a great option for spending 1.5 to 2 hours if it’s raining or too hot outside. The museum showcases Frida’s life, her art, her imaginative pursuits, and her dynamic relationship with Diego Rivera. Visitors can also enjoy a unique Frida-inspired dining experience at the restaurant located within the museum, serving up playful Mexican cuisine.
24. Go to the Fish Spa
In Playa del Carmen, along Quinta Avenida, you can find several places advertising “Fish Spa” with chairs and small pools containing tiny fish. This involves washing your feet and placing them in the water, allowing the fish to nibble away your dead skin. It’s a relaxing way to rejuvenate your feet after a day of walking in the sun and can be a fun group activity. It feels like sitting in a foot bath with sparkling water.
Before selecting a seafood restaurant, please make sure to check two things: the amount of fish served (some places serve very small portions) and the prices, as they can vary greatly. I recommend trying the restaurant located at the corner of Quinta Avenida and Calle 1, as it was the most affordable option I found. They charge 250 pesos per person or 400 pesos for two people, for about a 20-minute wait.
25. Contoy Island & Puerto Morelos
Isla Contoy is a small and beautiful island in Riviera Maya. Due to its significance as a nesting site for turtles and seabirds, only a limited number of biologists and coast guards are allowed to stay on the island. As a result, visitors are restricted to a maximum of 200 people per day and going with an organized tour is mandatory. I went on a tour to Isla Contoy from Playa del Carmen and it was a fantastic experience. It felt like I was in an unspoiled paradise, despite being in the midst of the highly touristy Riviera Maya.
The day will be packed with activities, starting with a hotel pick up, followed by breakfast and boat transportation with drinks. You will go snorkeling at the Ixlache reef and then have some free time at Isla Contoy, where lunch will be provided. Finally, you will have an hour and a half of free time at Isla Mujeres.
Puerto Morelos is a small town located just 30 minutes away from Playa del Carmen. It is a perfect destination for a half or full-day trip with your family. You can explore the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park through snorkeling or visit the famous Cenotes Route to see several cenotes. Additionally, Puerto Morelos is home to the best adventure park in Latin America. To learn more about the top attractions in Puerto Morelos, refer to my Definitive Guide to Puerto Morelos.
Playa del Carmen is a town that offers fun for friends, honeymooners, and families throughout the year. It’s no wonder people fall in love with it time and time again, with its amazing food, adventures, and culture. Be sure to add it to your Mexico bucket list. If you’ve been to this part of Mexico, share your favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen in the comments! And as always, have a happy and safe trip!
Which Is Better, Playa Del Carmen Or Cancun?
Typically, tourists who visit Cancun tend to spend the majority of their time residing within a resort. Conversely, Playa Del Carmen offers a greater diversity of lodging options, local dining establishments, and exciting activities to partake in. It is also situated in closer proximity to attractions such as cenotes and Mayan ruins. In summary, individuals who opt to stay in Playa are seeking a more genuine and authentic Mexican encounter.
The easiest way to reach Playa del Carmen as an international traveler is to fly into Cancun International Airport followed by a 45-minute drive to Playa del Carmen.
To save time and avoid the hassle of bargaining with taxis after a tiring flight, you can book airport transfers for your arrival. Your driver will be waiting for you at the airport exit with a sign displaying your name. You will be taken in a private and air-conditioned SUV straight to your accommodation in Playa Del Carmen. Enjoy a comfortable and stylish ride.
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen?
When you’re on vacation, it’s a great feeling to be impressed by your accommodations. Playa Del Carmen has a selection of amazing hotels and resorts to choose from. It’s worth noting that this city is popular with couples, so there are many adults-only options.
Are you looking for ways to save some money while visiting Playa del Carmen? Consider taking a free walking tour! Not only will you get a chance to explore the city with a local expert, but you’ll also have extra money to spend on dining out, shopping, or outdoor activities. Learn about the local history and Mayan culture while navigating the streets.
Playa del Carmen Sargassum Seaweed
It is true that the Riviera Maya sometimes experiences large amounts of seaweed called sargassum. These accumulations have been increasing in recent years due to global warming and pollution, and it is increasingly being discussed. However, it is impossible to predict when or where the seaweed will appear as it can change on a daily basis. If you want to avoid sargassum, you may be wondering what the best time of year and location to enjoy the beach without algae.
Here are some of our favorite alternatives that you can consider:
Cozumel: Sargassum is never found on the west coast of Cozumel, which is located in front of Playa del Carmen (accessible by ferry within 40 minutes).
Isla Mujeres, Holbox and Isla Contoy: Although algae can occur in the islands, they are still much less affected by algae compared to the Riviera Maya coast.
Caleta Tankah in Tulum: The beach club is small and has a cenote and a cove on the beach, ensuring that no seaweed enters the area.
Playa del Carmen is a city in Mexico that sits on the Caribbean coast in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is centrally located in the Riviera Maya and can be found between Cancun and Tulum. The city is positioned in front of Cozumel Island and is convenient as it intersects with two major highways – the Tulum-Cancun/Mexico 307 and the Kantunil-Cancun/Mexico 180D. This makes it easy to travel around the city and the surrounding areas.
How to get to Playa del Carmen by plane?
To reach Playa del Carmen, you must first fly to Cancún as there is no airport located in Playa del Carmen. Cancún is a significant airport that welcomes numerous flights from Europe and North America, and it is served by major airlines.
Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?
I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.
🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.
🚙 CancunAirport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.
🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
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